1. "Life after Pulse is sort of like regressing. People were starting to feel comfortable with themselves. People were coming out like crazy, but after that event, it's like going back to square one."
"I feel as though having marriage equality throughout the whole country does not necessarily mean we have acceptance. Once it was passed through the Supreme Court, there was a sigh of relief, but after Pulse people from the community are feeling a bit uneasy about being themselves. I have at least attempted to understand that those who are judgmental do not completely understand LGBTQ+ people. They believe being gay is a choice and the question they must ask themselves is: after being persecuted, killed, bullied, and suicide attempts why would anyone choose to be gay? Life after Pulse is sort of like regressing. People were starting to feel comfortable with themselves. People were coming out like crazy, but after that event, it's like going back to square one."
Achille, 20, Gay
2. "We need allies, we need people willing to help, people who care that will fight for us. We shouldn't be getting killed like this in 2016. No one should."
3. "People need to understand the attack is a step away from acceptance. It is backwards in terms of social justice, peace, and diversity."
"I fear going back to America even more than before, especially after the bathroom bills and increasing hatred of LGBTQ people. I'm not sure there is anything we can do about attacks like this, other than combat the rising hatred and anger in America at the moment. People need to understand the attack is a step away from acceptance. It is backwards in terms of social justice, peace, and diversity."
Liv, 22, Transwoman/gay
4. "This man WAS a terrorist. There is no question on that. But he was not a Muslim terrorist..."
5. "So many people have asked if 'I am okay,' and I don't know how to answer that question. I don't really know how to go on. All I know is that I keep going."
Many of my friends or friends' family members are LBGTQ+ and/or frequently go to Pulse. It's a really popular gay club in a section of Orlando that is typically considered a safe space for queer and trans people. Not knowing if they were alive or dead was really moving and impactful for me. Pride was a really interesting experience for me, as I did not know if there was much to celebrate. In a way, it was liberating to spend my first ever Pride in Washington, D.C., but I also did not feel safe there -- at a place designed specifically for people like myself to feel safe. On the way back, on the bus, I removed all Pride-related stickers from myself and took all trans and gay pride buttons off my backpack for fear of being verbally or physically harassed/assaulted. For so much of my life, I have felt sub-human being gay and transgender. This event, in a way, made me have flashbacks to when I was a younger kid thinking that I should just take my own life because others wanted to take it from me. I felt that way again after hearing of the shooting. I guess I'm just struggling to cope with not feeling safe, even in the places that were designed to be safe spaces for my community. There was a vigil in D.C. to stand together against homophobia, transphobia, and Islamaphobia, and I didn't even know if I felt safe going by myself. Luckily, everything was okay, and we gathered as a big LBGTQ+ family. I felt more love than I've ever felt, but it's still tough. Especially when I see well-meaning straight people saying this is a tragedy that effects us all equally. When one of us in the LBGTQ+ is hurt or killed, we are all affected. We are each other's family when our own blood family rejects us. We love each other unconditionally, and support each other through the hell on earth that society puts us through. From the beginning, it has been this way. Marching for five years, ten years, even twenty years won't stop the violence against our community, so sometimes we are all that each other has. So many people have asked if "I am okay," and I don't know how to answer that question. I don't really know how to go on. All I know is that I keep going. And that's all I can do. People who are not a part of the LBGTQ+ community who stand by our side are valued so much.
Andrew, 21, Gay/agender/non-binary
6. "I had to tell my parents about the shooting because they need to know that the same thing could happen to me, and they need to be prepared for it. Even if I didn't live right next to Florida I would've had to tell them that. It's not so much something to be afraid of as something I have to actively plan for and expect."
7. "People literally told us we were going to hell because we were having a vigil for the victims of the largest mass shooting on American soil."
"It's awful because we live in a world now where homophobic people value sexuality over human lives, which is absolute bullshit. I shouldn't have to be afraid to tell people that I am bisexual. When a couple of my friends and I heard the news, we immediately thought of what we could do to help so we had a candle light vigil and balloon release for those that were lost. We actually received a lot of hate for doing this. People literally told us we were going to hell because we were having a vigil for the victims of the largest mass shooting on American soil. If it hadn't have happened in a gay club, it would have been a whole other story. But, I guess "land of the free" really only applies to white, cis, hetero men in this God forsaken country."
Tanya, 20, Bisexual
8. "Knowing there are incredibly supportive people in the world makes me feel a lot more confident about facing people who aren't as supportive."
9. "In most cases, these individuals should never have had the ability to acquire a gun as easily as they did."
"I'm sad it happened, but not terribly surprised given the attitude and politics of both guns and the state of Florida (which I'm originally from). I'm not worried about anything happening similarly elsewhere, but I do believe that the use of guns in this nation requires more attention. More mass shootings occur as domestic disputes in which (usually, but not always) men kill their family members. The media rarely reports on this and as such we don't see the exacts as to why there are so many. In most cases, these individuals should never have had the ability to acquire a gun as easily as they did."
Scott, 23, Straight